January 11, 2024
MANILA – President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. said he would raise the issue of Mary Jane Veloso’s clemency and freedom during his bilateral meeting with Indonesian President Joko Widodo in Malacañang today.
“Yes. As I have always done,” the president told the Inquirer, through Presidential Communications Secretary Cheloy Velicaria-Garafil, on Tuesday.
The Inquirer sought Marcos’ comment on the issue after Migrante International, a group of migrant workers, called on the president to reiterate the Philippine government’s appeal to pardon Veloso, an overseas Filipino worker on death row in Indonesia since 2010.
Widodo, who arrived in the country on Tuesday night, is in Manila for a three-day official visit.
In May last year, Marcos personally asked Widodo to “reexamine” the case of Veloso, a convicted drug mule in Indonesia who was arrested after 2.6 kilograms of heroin were found in her suitcase at Yogyakarta’s Adisucipto International Airport on April 25, 2010.
Veloso said she was unaware that she was carrying illegal drugs as the luggage was given to her by her recruiters, Julius Lacanilao and Maria Cristina Sergio. A court in Yogyakarta sentenced her to death by firing squad about six months after her arrest.
In 2015, during the administration of then President Benigno Aquino III, the Indonesian government delayed Veloso’s execution after new evidence emerged that she was also victimized by a drug trafficking syndicate.
Marcos, speaking to reporters after his arrival from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) Summit in Labuan Bajo in Indonesia last year, said: “We continue to ask for a commutation — or even a pardon, extradition — [to bring Veloso] back to the Philippines, and … it’s constantly there.”
Joanna Concepcion, chair of Migrante International, said they were expecting Marcos “no less” to make the direct appeal to Widodo to grant Veloso clemency.
“Raising it to the Indonesian delegation is not enough. The Marcos Jr. administration must also demonstrate to the Indonesian delegation that it is doing everything it can to fast-track the human trafficking … case against Mary Jane’s recruiters in the Philippines, which was the basis for Indonesia to grant Mary Jane temporary reprieve in 2015,” Concepcion said in a statement sent to the Inquirer on Tuesday.
“Until now, Mary Jane has yet to testify. The delays in the legal developments in the Philippines [are] prolonging Mary Jane’s freedom,” she added.
Migrante earlier called on Marcos and Widodo to meet with Veloso’s family.
“Granting Mary Jane clemency and freedom would be a great gift to Filipino migrants and people,” the group said, stressing that Veloso was a victim of human trafficking and was convicted for being tricked into carrying illegal drugs.
“She has suffered more than enough. Despite a stay in her execution in 2015, the prosecution of her illegal recruiters, and numerous calls for her freedom, Mary Jane remains imprisoned … She should be granted clemency and freedom, and should be home by now, living with and helping out her two sons and aging parents,” Migrante said.
Also on Tuesday, Foreign Secretary Enrique Manalo said he again raised Veloso’s case when he met with his Indonesian counterpart Retno Marsudi during the 7th Joint Commission on Bilateral Cooperation in Manila.
“I just said what we’re doing now and also what Indonesia’s doing. We’re working to see whether we can find a way toward resolving the case—the clemency,” Manalo said.
When asked whether the Philippines’ assistance in repatriating Indonesian trafficking victims last year could be used as leverage in granting clemency for Veloso, Manalo said: “Well, you know, this cooperation on migration is part of the Asean cooperation. We have always helped our Asean neighbors on this, just like we seek their help on similar issues.”
In her speech during the bilateral meeting, Marsudi thanked the Philippine government for assisting in the safe return of Indonesian trafficking survivors.
“I also raised our shared commitment to combating transnational crime,” Marsudi said.
“Indonesia thanked the Philippines for the assistance in repatriating 246 Indonesian trafficking victims last year and [in] returning 73 wildlife birds to their natural habitats in Indonesia,” she added.
While the Philippine government had done its part in again appealing for clemency for Veloso, the ball, so to speak, is in Jakarta’s hands, Manalo said.
“That’s always been our position to see whether they can grant clemency … now it’s up to their government to decide,” he said.
The Presidential Communications Office earlier said that the meeting between Mr. Marcos and Widodo would be an opportunity for the two leaders “to reaffirm their commitment to deepening and expanding” Philippine-Indonesia relations.